With the resignation of Dean of Students Patricia Volp, the College of William and Mary has begun the search for her replacement. Five finalists will hold public forums and interviews on campus within the next month. Two candidates have already met with students and faculty.
Brian Carlisle, the first candidate to hold a forum, currently serves as the dean of students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in Eau Claire, Wis. He was inspired to work in student affairs following the advice of a mentor during his undergraduate years at the University of Alabama.
Since then, Carlisle has worked as an associate dean of students at the University of California – Los Angeles and as the associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students at the San Francisco Art Institute, as well as in his current position at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
He suggested that the first few months as dean of students at the College would require him to be a sponge, soaking up the information about the current state of the office. After that, it boils down to prioritization.
“I’m always looking at what are my immediate needs, what are my secondary needs,” Carlisle said.
Student relationships play a huge role in the Dean of Students’ duties and Carlisle noted that he has dealt with issues where the interests of the administration and of the students fail to align. Navigation and negotiation, he pointed out, are the important pieces of solving any such problem.
“I approach it from the perspective that students know best what students want and what students need, and so we have to listen,” Carlisle said. “Sometimes we have to listen to the things they’re not saying, as opposed to just the things they’re saying. Students also have to come to terms with the fact that collectively as administrators and faculty we have hundreds of years worth of collective experience of policies, practices and even research. … Somewhere those two have to navigate and come together.”
Carlisle emphasized that the fundamental building blocks of navigation and negotiation are strong relationships with students, faculty and administrators. As the dean of students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Carlisle hosted the executive officers of the student government at his house every year to encourage a conversation between administrators and students.
“We have to be mindful that we want the institution to continue,” Carlisle said. “We have an obligation. … We have to be good stewards of everything so that the institution can survive long past us.”
Working just an hour down I-64 as the associate vice provost for Student Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, Charles Klink is already familiar with Virginia higher education.
Klink is the second candidate for the dean of students position to visit the College of William and Mary campus. He previously served as the director for university counseling services at VCU, and before that as the associate director for counseling and consultation services at Ohio State University.
Klink noted that it was an interaction with the Dean of Students office during his undergraduate years at Goshen College that led to his eventual decision to pursue a career path in counseling and administration. That meeting helped him realize the importance of an administrator’s interactions with students.
“It’s about having substantive contact with students,” Klink said. “I feel like every interaction you have with students should be significant and meaningful. … I do feel like ultimately the work that we do is about the relationships we develop.”
Klink also suggested that strong relationships are important for dealing with both good and bad experiences.
“I’m a big believer that, at the end of the day, we want to help students to be successful,” Klink said. “But equally as much, we want them to develop the capacity to have failures and disappointments and walk through those … I think sometimes failures are underrated, as [they help] develop our resiliency in life.”
As dean of students at the College, Klink says that his first task would be to start to create a network of relationships through simple actions.
“Part of it sometimes is just showing up to an event and letting students know that you’re there and introducing yourself,” Klink said.
Klink stated that a network of relationships, both with students and administrators, would help the College deal with controversial issues.
“To me, it’s all about having a relationship with students and being able to engage in a dialogue,” Klink said. “Students think of things that administrators don’t think about sometimes. You have to create a climate where students feel that it’s safe to articulate opposing views. If we can’t do that, we’re in big trouble. … It’s how do you create a container for people to articulate those [opposing views] that is respectful of all the opposing views.”
For the other four Dean of Students candidates, click on the links below.